Last Friday, Nintendo revealed the pricing of their Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack, which released Mondayd, Oct. 25.
The price of their already divisive online experience has more than doubled from the basic plan, being $50 for one user, or $80 for a family plan, which up to 8 people can use. The price has increased $30 and $45 respectively, and even the most loyal Nintendo fans seem to be disgruntled.
While you can still have the basic online plan, currently paying members would like to gain access to the expanded game selection offered by expansion pack, since Nintendo has listened to its fanbase and added Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games to their growing retro “streaming,” service.
“A $30 increase for 30-year-old games is ridiculous” says Ethan Buhrman, a Nintendo fan who is currently paying for the basic plan. “I don’t think anyone was expecting this much of a price hike”
The outrage from fans can be seen in many ways, including the number of dislikes on the YouTube video showing off the new membership option, which is currently sitting at over 80K dislikes. Fans have also taken to Twitter to express their frustration, going as far as saying “it’s always morally correct to pirate Nintendo games”. This is due to the great availability of Nintendo games offered on emulation websites, all for free, instead of a $30 to $45-dollar yearly charge.
The popularity of Nintendo emulators has risen at a steady pace over the years, as fans who have grown up with older Nintendo consoles don’t have a way to play their favorite games without spending a small fortune. “I just want to play some GameCube games, and if I wanted to do that on the original system, I’d have to pay hundreds of dollars, and then you also have to buy all the games you want” said Buhrman. The ease at which you can emulate these systems and games has led to people turning away from Nintendo’s offerings, if there even is one.
Nintendo has a long history of being against emulation, which they consider pirating. While emulation of games that you already own (or don’t own) is not considered illegal by any United States law, Nintendo will go to great lengths to make you think so. Nintendo’s legal web page even states as much, saying “It is illegal to download a Nintendo ROM from the internet whether or not you own an authentic copy of that game.”
Much of the game industry seems to like how Nintendo has handled emulation in the past. While most of the time they’re completely in the legal right when taking down websites that host the games you can emulate (called ROMs), gamers and other game companies seem to think that Nintendo goes too far. Taking down and suing ROM sites “sullies memories, generates bad feeling and is unlikely to do much for the company’s bottom line. It certainly won’t stop people ‘pirating’ and playing retro games” says a TorrentFreak employee in an article by WIRED.
While Nintendo has a very strong stance on the subject, they’ve also shown they will not offer great services/features that emulators already offer. Some people, including one of the biggest names in the game industry, Valve’s Gabe Newell, thinks that people wouldn’t pirate or emulate games if there were better services offered. “Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem,” Newell said in an interview back in 2011.
The same crowd on Twitter who tout for Nintendo piracy have also been advocating for the company to offer up a better service. “Its 30 extra bucks a year for a very small selection of N64 and Genesis games vs 0 dollars for every single one of them ever made in an actually convenient way? Who wouldn’t want to emulate?” said Buhrman.
There are, however, a group of people on the internet that do think Nintendo’s pricing is reasonable, and have stated they will very happily buy the new service. “This is the cheapest way to play these games completely legally at this point and I see no issue with paying for it, I genuinely feel like it’s a fair price,” said an anonymous source. “I get (emulation) for stuff like those expensive F-Zero or Fire Emblem games, since they aren’t available and are very expensive, but for the N64 at least, these are all games that hold up really well all for 30 bucks.”
The anonymous source also compared the pricing to offerings Nintendo has made in the past. “The NES classic was sixty bucks and the SNES classic was eighty. And while yes there’s a difference of owning vs what is essentially renting, the service for one person for three years is roughly the same as the SNES classic including tax and shipping. And the family plan makes that even cheaper at four to five dollars per person minimum, assuming everyone pays their share. The price definitely makes sense,” they stated.
The Nintendo Switch Online expansion pack went on sale Oct. 25. Only time will tell how well the expansion sells, and if Nintendo will offer up services that fans would like in the future. For now, though, it seems that emulation will continue to be a popular way for older Nintendo fans to get their fix of retro games.